Mardi Gras Goffman as Collective Performance (Sociology)

Only available on StudyMode
  • Topic: Mobile, Alabama, Mardi Gras, Carnival
  • Pages : 6 (1796 words )
  • Download(s) : 64
  • Published : December 5, 2007
Open Document
Text Preview
New Orleans was left permanently changed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Mardi Gras season presents an opportunity for locals and tourists alike to collaboratively define this new and changed city. Carnival and Mardi Gras day itself can be viewed as theatrical performances in which local New Orleanians and tourists are involved in multiple dramatic interactions to present an ideal city and celebration. These reciprocal interactions between actor and audience result in a certain presentation of the festival, and of the City of New Orleans and often involves hiding the problems and devastating history that is very much a part of the city and festivities. Tourists from all over the world flock to the city to act in and be an audience member to the series of formal, ritualized parades and balls which take place between the Twelfth Night and Lent. The celebration is reinvented by its performance teams and audiences each year and thus, its meaning is constantly being renegotiated. The first formal masked parade presented by an organized krewe, or performance team consisting of city locals working together to stage the performance of Mardi Gras, took place in 1857 (Cohen 110). Each krewe has a distinct name, performance team members, and personal front. Unique ritual paradigms, such as the exchange of beads for disrobement, are created and enacted in which mutual understanding of the situation is necessary. The success of the presentation is determined not only by the krewe's performance but by the audience's acceptance of the krewe's performance as believable, and their willingness to overlook mistakes. Thus, defining Mardi Gras and the City of New Orleans is a cooperative dramaturgical process dependent on the cooperation of actors and audience members. The product of this interaction between audience members and actors is a working, malleable definition of Mardi Gras' and New Orleans' self.

The locals devoted to showing an ideal presentation of New Orleans and Mardi Gras, have a vested interest in presenting an idealized representation of New Orleans. The self of New Orleans is not a possession of New Orleans, but is created through the management of impressions and interactions of its locals and outsiders who view it firsthand, as tourists do, or through the media. The city's self along with the intended presentation of Mardi Gras has changed throughout history because of actor's changed opinion. Although different groups of actors have attempted to create distinct impressions of the festival, the impression most often conveyed throughout history is one characterized by celebration, mystery and debauchery. It is more important than ever to carefully create an idealized version of Mardi Gras and thus the city's self in order to attract tourist's to help rebuild the city after Hurricane Katrina.

Krewes and locals use impression management techniques to maintain an impression of celebration, mystery and merriment even in the face of problems. The role of performance teams in creating this impression is an example of a dramaturgical technique. Individuals within any given krewe are reliant on other team members to help create the performance. Krewes are perfect examples of performance teams because they work together to stage the celebration The identity of the krewe members are kept from the public by costumes and masks to hide their faces during the parades and also by keeping the release of members' identities private. These actions which promote allegiance to the group and simultaneously encourage dissociation with audience members are attempts to create dramaturgical loyalty allegiance to the secret-society-like group (Ritzer 359). The separation of the audience from the krewes is also physically evident. They ride on elevated floats to disassociate themselves with the audience and further confirm their loyalty to their performance.

The setting and props used by locals to create Mardi Gras's...
tracking img